Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jeb Bush's Right Angle

URBANDALE, Iowa -- It's about time we tossed out the conventional wisdom on Jeb Bush.

This is for you, the Tea Party-aligned Republican who views the former Florida governor and likely presidential candidate as a centrist squish. And it's for you, the independent-minded Democrat who might see Bush as an unthreatening moderate.

Jeb Bush leans much further to the right than either of you thinks.

Dig deeper than his embrace of Common Core education standards or his open mind on immigration. Unwrap the pretty packaging of the compassionate conservatism he has recycled from his older brother's White House run 15 years ago.

You'll find a Republican who used his power in a politically important state to fight access to abortion, to push merit pay for teachers and to end affirmative action. You probably remember him tangling with the courts to keep Terri Schiavo alive, but do you remember how he urged a court to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a mentally disabled woman?

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View my slideshow

Additional reading

Terri Schiavo and the brink of constitutional crisis

That time he sought a guardian for the fetus of a disabled rape victim

A privatizing, charter-school founding 'Veto' Corleone

Tea Party suspicions will present a 2016 challenge

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Hampshire meets John Kasich

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The media spectacle surrounding a shiny new presidential prospect in an early caucus or primary state can be a sight to see.

Drop a guy like Ohio Gov. John Kasich into New Hampshire for the first time -- for the first time since his last national campaign, anyway -- and watch the chain of events.

Kasich speaks. He takes a few questions. He moves on to the next event. Then the reporters chase each other around the room to put the same three or four questions to as many audience members as they can collar: What'd you think? What does Kasich need to do to win here? Should he be doing more? Do you have a favorite?

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Additional coverage from John Kasich's first New Hampshire trip:

Kasich wears SB 5 fight as badge of honor

Kasich on Ted Cruz: 'I don't know anything about him or what he's talking about'

Monday, March 23, 2015

Some thoughts on the Jim Traficant documentary

"Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown" premiered Saturday in Akron as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival. Interest was so high in the film - which chronicles the rise and fall of the colorful, corrupt pol from the Mahoning Valley - that the screening was moved to a larger venue.

I caught Sunday afternoon's screening at Tower City Cinemas. A Valley native myself, I was impressed with how well Eric Murphy balanced Traficant's charm with the wreckage he left. And Murphy was kind to Youngstown. He captured the region's personality honestly, in a way that will leave some outsiders puzzled.

At Sunday's showing, it was tough to tell who was laughing with Youngstown, and who was laughing at Youngstown. There's a difference, and Murphy walked the line well.

Read more from Monday's edition of Ohio Politics Roundup

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wide open field awaits Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his possible presidential campaign in New Hampshire

When Ohio Gov. John Kasich makes his New Hampshire debut this week, he'll find a presidential field as fluid as any in recent memory.

"There's not only not an heir apparent, there's not even a hint of an heir apparent," Steve Duprey, the state's Republican national committeeman, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group in a telephone interview. "It's as wide open as I can remember it."

This is unusual for a GOP that often promotes the next in line -- be it a Bush or a Dole, a McCain or a Romney. That's especially true when Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and son and brother of past presidents, is an option. So there are opportunities in the nation's first primary state for Kasich, whose 2016 strategy to this point has been to act casual about the idea in public while engineering few moves behind the scenes.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

President Barack Obama brings some swagger: Observations from his Cleveland visit

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- President Barack Obama came here Wednesday with some swagger. Not only did he want credit for deficit reductions and economic recovery, he chastised Republicans, ridiculing their judgment of his policies.

"It was one thing for them to argue against Obamacare before it was put in place," Obama, using the nickname for his signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, said during an afternoon address to the City Club of Cleveland.

"Every prediction they made about it turned out to be wrong. It's working better than even I expected. But it doesn't matter. Evidence be damned."

This was not the same Obama who last visited Cleveland in November 2013. That Obama had to answer for the heath care program's clumsy and embarrassing rollout, which was still giving him political heartburn. He put up a defiant defense then. But it came without the "told-you-so" tone that rang loudly in Wednesday's speech at the Global Center for Health Innovation and Cleveland Convention Center complex.

Here's what else stood out in the president's appearance.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Scott Walker shifts on ethanol, Ted Cruz brings the candor: Iowa Agriculture Summit scouting report

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and other Republican presidential prospects auditioned here Saturday for a crowd that can open doors and wallets in this first and hugely important battleground on the 2016 election calendar.

In a state where farming issues loom largest, the Iowa Agriculture Summit was a literal cattle call of would-be candidates. Each came eager to impress host Bruce Rastetter, a multimillionaire agribusiness mogul and emerging player in GOP politics.

For seven hours, nearly 1,000 industry leaders and other curious observers sat politely inside an exhibition hall at the state fairgrounds. The forum placed a premium not on sound bites but, rather, on the empathy and thoughtfulness that contenders could summon when tackling topics that don't get much attention in national campaigns.

Rastetter gently pressed his guests on subjects as global as trade and immigration and as local as genetically modified foods. Discussions about the Environmental Protection Agency's Renewable Fuel Standard -- a lifeline for corn growers and the ethanol industry -- presented tricky moments for conservatives who favor limited government.

"Don't mess with the RFS!" Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad cautioned at the outset.

When it was over, the real question was if anyone left with a leg up on the nomination that the GOP will award 16 months from now at its Cleveland convention. Consider this an early, but nonetheless illustrative, scouting report from the state that holds the first caucus.

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